Solar Eclipses: From Fear to Knowledge

  • Michael T. Sillerman '68 Rotunda

The total solar eclipse crossing North America on April 8, 2024 provides Cornell University Library with a wonderful opportunity to display eclipse-related highlights from its Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC). Showcasing artifacts and books from different parts of the world, from ancient times to the present day, the exhibition explores the hard science as well as the wonder and anxiety revolving around this astronomical phenomenon. In his De Republica (circa 50 B.C.E.) for example, the Roman statesman Cicero mentions a general who explained to his soldiers that eclipses were not bad omens but recurring physical events with no cause for alarm. Ever since, new optical technology and explanatory models have revealed there's nothing to fear and only a lot to learn from solar eclipses!

This exhibition is curated by Henrik Spoon (librarian of physics, astronomy, and mathematics), Evan Earle (the Peter J. Thaler ’56 Cornell University Archivist), and Laurent Ferri (curator of pre-1800 collections), in collaboration with other Cornell University Library experts at RMC, the Conservation Lab, and Kroch Asia Collections.

Please check RMC's hours of operation before planning your visit:

Image: Oil painting of January 24, 1925 total solar eclipse by Louis Agassiz Fuertes